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tv   News Comey Senate Testimony  NBC  June 8, 2017 7:00am-9:43am PDT

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we'll be back -- actually we'll be covering the james comey testimony. you'll see it live in just minutes this morning. >> senator dianne feinstein. we pick up our coverage with the "today" show right now. this is an nbc news special report, the comey hearing, from washington. here is lester holt and savannah guthrie. >> good morning, everyone, on a day of high drama here in washington. we will show you a live picture of the senate hearing room where in just a few moments the fired fbi director james comey will begin his testimony. we are waiting to see if he will be sworn in in public or in a back room as he had at another appearance. >> this is a packed hearing room. high anticipation for this testimony. comey expected to tell the senate intelligence committee about his interactions with president trump in the months leading up to his firing. >> of course, we got a preview yesterday in the form of his
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statement, if you will. as you will hear, comey will describe how he says the president urged him to drop the investigation of his former national security adviser michael flynn and that the president asked him several times to announce that the president himself was not the target of an investigation. our chief white house correspondent hallie jackson is in the hearing room. hallie, set the scene for us. >> lester, the opening testimony that we saw from james comey is really just the beginning here. the question will be what we'll hear from the senators who are now getting seated inside this very busy hearing room. we are perched just above it. already this morning from some republicans we are hearing questions about the line between behavior from the president that may not have been appropriate versus what may not have been legal. so expect that to get drilled down on today. we know the top two senators on this committee. the top republican and democrat, are huddling in a back room right now with james comey. that is typical procedure, it's something you would often see. let me give you a sense of the anticipation here. people started lining up to
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watch this hearing just after 4:00 this morning on the hill. lester. >> all right, hallie, thank you. it's 10:01 eastern. we're told they wanted to start close to on time. we should see things get under a way momentarily. >> we're joined by chuck todd. there are legal issues and political issues. i know you will be watching closely to see in particular what republicans do and how they treat this testimony. >> that's right. how many of them play defense counsel for the president and how many of them don't feel comfortable doing that. i think we got a little hint yesterday. i think marco rubio seems more comfortable and james langford of oklahoma seem more comfortable being tougher. whether the white house likes it or not. >> here is mr. comey now entering the room. >> by the way, i think that viewers should expect, this is about the process of how the president has handled this investigation. we may not get a lot about the investigation itself. >> in fact, i think we are
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expecting him not to get too much into it because, of course, there is a separate investigation going on right now by the special counsel bob mueller. >> let's go to peter alexander, the view from the white house. what are the president's plans in terms of monitoring or watching this hearing? >> lester, good morning to you. at 6'8", james comey has been looming over this trump presidency since the beginning. today i am told by a senior white house aide that the president will be monitoring comey's testimony today as time permits him in a white house dining room alongside some of his senior advisers, closest aides and members of his legal team including his outside counsel ma counsel. he is stocked up with a speech before a friendly crowd and an infrastructure summit. whether or not he will be tweeting remains unclear.
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i spoke to a trump ally momenting amoments ago who said the idea of president trump pushing back on twitter was, in his words, delicious. >> one of the stranger rituals of washington, having all those cameras at your feet as they gavel in the hearing and we listen to the testimony of former fbi director james comey. >> director comey, i appreciate your willingness to appear before the committee today and, more importantly, i thank you for your dedicated service and leadership to the federal bureau of investigation. your appearance today speaks to the trust we have built over the years, and i am looking forward to a very open and candid discussion today. i would like to remind my colleagues that we will reconvene in closed session at 1:00 p.m. today, and i ask that
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you reserve for that venue any questions that might get into classified information. the director has been very gracious with his time, but the vice chairman and i have worked out a very specific time line for his commitment to be on the hill. so we will do everything we can to meet that agreement. the senate select committee on intelligence exists to certify for the other 85 members of the united states senate and the american people that the intelligence community is operating lawfully and has the necessary authorities and tools to accomplish its mission and keep america safe. part of our mission, beyond the oversight we continue to provide to the intelligence community and its activities, is to investigate russian interference in the 2016 u.s. elections. the committee's work continues. this hearing represents part of that effort. allegations have been swirling in the press for the last several weeks.
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today is your opportunity to set the record straight. yesterday i read with interest your statement for the record, and i think it provides some helpful details surrounding your interactions with the president. it clearly lays out your understanding of those discussions, actions you took following each conversation, and your state of mind. i very much appreciate your candor. and i think it's helpful, as we work through to determine the ultimate truth behind possible russian interference in the 2016 elections. your statement also provides texture and context to your interactions with the president from your vantage point and outlines a strained relationship. the american people need to hear your side of the story, just as they need to hear the president's descriptions of events. these interactions also highlight the importance of the committee's ongoing investigation. our experienced staff is
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interviewing all relevant parties and some of the most sensitive intelligence in our country's possession. we will establish the facts, separate from rampant speculation and lay them out for the american people to make their own judgment. only then will we, as a nation, be able to move forward and to put this episode to rest. there are several outstanding issues not addressed in your statement that i hope you will clear up for the american people today. did the president's request for loyalty, your impression, that -- that the one-on-one dinner of january 27th was, and i quote, at least in part, an effort to create some sort of patronage relationship, or his march 30th phone call asking what you could do to lift the cloud of russian investigation in any way alter your approach or the fbi's investigation into general flynn or the broader
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investigation into russia and possible links to the campaign. in your opinion, did potential russian efforts to establish links with individuals in the trump orbit rise to the level we could define as collusion, or was it a counter intelligence concern? there has been a significant public speculation about your decision making related to the clinton e-mail investigation, why did you decide publicly -- to publicly announce fbi's recommendations that the department of justice not pursue criminal charges? you have described it as a choice between a bad decision and a worse decision. the american people need to understand the facts behind your action. this committee is uniquely suited to investigate russia's interference in the 2016 elections, we also have a unified bipartisan approach to what is a highly charged partisan issue. russian activities during 2016
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election may have been aimed at one party's candidate, but as my colleague senator rubio says frequently, in 2018 and 2020, it could be aimed at anyone, at home or abroad. my colleague, senator warner, and i have worked to stay in lockstep on this investigation. we have had our differences. on approach at times. but i have constantly stressed that we need to be a team, and i think senator warner agrees with me. we must keep these questions above politics and partisanship. it's too important to be tainted by anyone trying to score political points. with that, again, i welcome you, director, and i turn te
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is. it was the honor of my life to serve beside you, to be part of the fbi family and i will miss it for the rest of my life. thank you for standing watch. thank you for doing so much good for this country.
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do that good as long as ever you can. and senators, i look forward to your questions. >> director, thank you for that testimony both oral and the written testimony that you provided to the committee. yesterday had made public to the american people, the chair would recognize himself for five minutes, vice chair for five minutes. director, did the special counsel's office review and/or edit your written testimony? >> no. >> do you have any doubt that russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 elections? >> none. >> do you have any doubt that the russian government was behind the intrusions in the dnc and the dcc systems and the subsequent leaks of that information? >> no, no doubt. >> do you have any doubt the russian government was behind the cyber intrusion in the state voter files? >> no. >> do you have any doubt that
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officials of the russian government were fully aware of these activities? >> no doubt. >> are you competent that no votes cast in the 2016 presidential election were altered? >> i'm confident. by the time -- when i left as director i had seen no indication of that whatsoever. >> >> director comey. did the president at any time ask you to stop the fbi investigation into russian involvement of the 2016 u.s. elections. >> not to my understanding, no. >> did any individual working for this administration including the justice department ask you to stop the russian investigation? >> no. >> no. >> director, when the president requested that you "let flynn go" general flynn had an unreported contact with the
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russians which is an offense. and if press accounts are right there might have been discrepancies between facts and his fbi testimony in your estimation, was general flynn in serious legal jeopardy and and do you sense the president was trying to obstruct justice or just seek for a way for michael flynn to save face given he had already been fired? >> general flynn was in legal jeopardy. there was an open fbi criminal investigation in connection with the russian contacts and the contacts themselves and so that was my assessment at the time. i don't think it's for me to say whether the conversation i had with the president was an effort to obstruct. i took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning, but that's a conclusion i'm sure the special counsel will work towards to try to understand what the intention was there and whether that's an offense. >> director, is it possible that
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as part of this fbi investigation is the fbi could find evidence of criminality that is not tied to the 2016 elections, possibly collusion or coordination with russians? >> sure. >> so there could be something that just fits a criminal aspect of this that doesn't have anything to do with the 2016 election cycle? >> correct. in any complex investigation when you start turning over a rock, sometimes you find things that are unrelated to the primary investigation that are criminal in nature. >> director comey, you have been criticized publicly for the decision to present your findings on the e-mail investigation directly to the american people. have you learned anything since that time that would have changed what you said or how you chose to inform the american people? >>. >> honestly no. it caused a lot of personal pain for me but as i look back, given
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what i knew at the time and what i've learned since i think it was the best way to try and protect the justice institution, including the fbi. >> in the public domain is this question of the steele dossier. a document that has been around now for over a year. i'm not sure when the fbi first took possession of it but the media had it before you had it and we had it. at the time of your departure from the fbi was the fbi able to confirm any criminal allegations contained in the steele document? >> mr. chairman, i don't think that's a question i can answer in an open setting because it goes into the details of the investigati investigation. >> direct or, the term we hear most often is "collusion." when people are describing
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possible links between americans and russian government entities related to the interference in our election, would you say it's normal for foreign governments to reach out to members of an incoming administration? >> yes. >> at what point does the normal contact cross the line into an attempt to recruit agents or influence or spies? >> difficult to say in the abstract. it depends on the context whether there's an effort to keep it covert. what the nature of the requests made of the american by the foreign government are. it's a judgment call based on a whole lot of fact. >> at what point would that recruitment become a counterintelligence threat to our country? >> again, difficult to answer in the abstract but when a foreign power is using especially coercion or some sort of pressure to try and co-opt an american, especially a government official to act on
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its behalf, that's a serious concern to the fbi and at the heart of the fbi's counterintelligence mission. >> so if you've got a 36 page document of specific claims that are out there, the fbi would have to, for counterintelligence reasons, try to verify anything that might be claimed in there, one, and probably first and foremost is the counterintelligence concerns that we have about blackmail. would that be an accurate statement? >> yes. the fbi receives a credible allegation that there is some evident to co-opt, coerce, direct, employ covertly an american on behalf of the foreign power, that's the basis on which a counterintelligence investigation is open. >> and when you read the dossier, what was your reaction given that it was 100% directed at the president-elect? >> not a question i can answer in open setting, mr. chairman. >> okay.
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when did you become aware of the cyber intrusion? >> the first cyber -- there's all kinds of cyber intrusions going on all the time. the first russia-connected cyber intrusion i became aware of in the late summer of 2015. >> and in that time frame there were more than the dnc and the dccc that were targets? >> correct. there was a massive effort to target government and non-governmental -- near governmental agencies like nonprofits. >> what would be the estimate of how many entities out there the russians specifically targeted in that time frame? >> it's hundreds. i suppose it could be more than a thousand but it's at least hundreds. >> when did you become aware that data had been exfiltrated? >> i'm not sure exactly. i think either late 15 or early '16. >> and did you, the director of the fbi, have conversations with
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the last administration about the risk that this posed? >> yes. >> and share with us if you will what actions they took. >> well, the fbi had already undertaken an effort to notify all the victims and that's what we consider the entities that were attacked as part of this massive spear fishing campaign. so we notified them in an effort to disrupt what might be ongoing then there was a series of continuing interactions with entities through the rest of '15 into '16 and then throughout '16 the administration was trying to decide how to respond to the intrusion activity that it saw. >> and the fbi in this case, unlike other cases that you might investigate, did you ever have access to the actual hardware that was hacked or did you have to rely on a third party to provide you the data that they had collected? >> in the case of the dnc, and i believe the dccc but i'm sure the dnc we did not have access
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to the devices themselves. we got relevant information from a high class entity that had done the work but we didn't get directing a dress >> but no content? >> correct. >> isn't content an important part of the forensics from a counterintelligence standpoint? >> it is, although what was briefed to me by my folks, the people who were my folks at the time is that they had gotten the information from the private party that they needed to understand the intrusion by the spring of 2016. >> let me go back, if i can, very briefly to the decision to publicly go out with your results on the e-mail. was your decision influenced by the attorney general's tarmac meeting with the former president bill clinton? >> yes, in an ultimately
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conclusive way, that was the thing that capped it for me that i had to do something separately to protect the credibility of the investigation, which meant both the fbi and the justice department. >> were there other things that contributed to that that you can describe in an open session? >> there were other things that contributed to that but one significant item i can't, i know the committee has been briefed on, there's been public accounts of it which are nonsense but i understand the committee has been briefed on the classified fact. probably the only other consideration i guess i can talk about in open setting is at one point the attorney general directed me not to call it an investigation but instead to call it a matter which confused me and concerned me but that was one of the bricks in the load that led me to conclude i have to step away from the department if we're to close this case credibly. >> director, my last question. you're not on a seasoned prosecutor, you've led the fbi
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for years, you understand the investigative process. you've worked with this committee closely and we're grateful to you because i think we've mutually built trust in what your organization does around what we do. is there any doubt in your mind that this committee can carry out its oversight role in the 2016 russian involvement in the elections in parallel with the now special counsel that's been set up? >> no, no doubt. it can be done. it requires lots of conversations but bob mueller is one of this country's great, great pros and i'm sure you all will be able to work it out with him, to run in the parallel. >> i want to thank you once again. i want to turn to the vice chairman. >> thank you, mr. chairman, again, director comey, thank you for your service. and your comments to your fbi family were heart felt know that
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even though there are some in the administration who've tried to smear your reputation, you had acting director mccabe in public testimony a few weeks back and in public testimony yesterday reaffirmed the vast majority of the fbi community had great trust in your leadership and obviously trusting your integrity. i want to go through a number of the meetings that you referenced in your testimony. let's start with the january 6 meeting in trump tower where you went up to a series of officials to brief the president-elect on the russia investigation. my understanding is you remained afterwards to brief him on, again, "some personally sensitive aspects of the relation you relayed." now you said after that briefing you felt compelled to document that conversation that you actually started documenting as soon as you got into the car. now, you've had extensive
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experience at the department of justice and at the fbi. you've worked under presidents of both parties. what was it about that meeting that led you to determine that you needed to start putting down a written record? >> a combination of things. i think the circumstances, the subject matter, and the person i was interacting with. circumstances first, i was alone with the president of the united states, or the president-elect, soon to be president. the subject matter, i was talking about matters that touch on the fbi's core responsibility and that remit to the president, president-elect personally. and then the nature of the person. i was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting and so i thought it really important to document. that combination of things i never experienced before but i led me to believe that i've got to write it down and i've got to write it down in a very detailed way. >> i think that's a very
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important statement you just made and my understanding is that, again, unlike your dealings with presidents of either parties in your past experience, in every subsequent meeting or conversation with this president, you created a written record. did you feel that you needed to create this written record of these memos because they might need to be relied on at some future date? >> sure. i created records after conversations and i think i did it after each of our nine conversations. if i didn't, i did it for nearly all of them, especially the ones that were substantive. i knew there might come a day when i would need a record of what happened not just to defend myself but to defend the fbi and our integrity as an institution and the independence of our investigative function. that's what made this so difficult. it was a combination of circumstances, subject matter and the particular person. >> so in all your experience, this was the only president that you felt like in every meeting you needed to document because
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at some point, using your words, he might put out a non-truthful representation of that meeting? >> that's right, senator. and i -- as i said in my written testimony, as fbi director, i interacted with president obama, i spoke only twice in three years and didn't document it. when i was deputy attorney general i had one one-on-one meeting with president bush about a very important and difficult national security matter. i didn't write a memo documenting that conversation either. sent a quick mail to my staff to let them know there was something going on but i didn't feel with president bush the need to document it in that way. again, because of the combination of those factors, just wasn't present we they are president bush or president obama. >> i think that is very significant. think others will probably question that. the chairman and i have requested those memos. it is our hope that the fbi will get this committee access to those memos so, again, we can read that con team trains you rendition so we've got your side
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of the story. now i know members have said and press have said that if you were -- a great deal had been made of whether the president you were asked and in effect indicate whether the president was the subject of any investigation and my understanding is prior to your meeting on january 6 you discussed with your leadership team whether or not you should be prepared to assure then president-elect trump that the fbi was not investigating him personally. now, my understanding is your leadership team agreed with that, but was that a unanimous decision? was there any debate about that? >> it wasn't unanimous. one of the members of the leadership team had a view that all though it was technically true, we did not have a counterintelligence file case open on then president-elect trump. his concern was because we're looking at the potential -- again, that's the subject of the investigation -- coordination between the campaign and russia,
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because it was president-elect trump's campaign this person's view was inevitably his behavior, his conduct will fall within the scope of that work and so he was reluctant to make the statement that i made. i disagreed. i thought it was fair to say what was literally true. there was not a counterintelligence investigation of mr. trump and i decided in the moment to say it given the nature of our conversation. >> at that moment in time. did you ever revisit that in the subsequent sessions? >> with the fbi leadership team? sure. and the leader had that view, it didn't change. his view was still that it was probably although literally true his concern was it could be misleading because the nature of the investigation was such that it might well touch -- obviously it would touch the campaign and the person at the head of the campaign would be the candidate so that was his view throughout. >> let me move to the january 27th dinner where you said, "the
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president began by asking me whether i wanted to stay on as fbi director. he also indicated that lots of people -- again, your words -- wanted the job. you go on to say that the dinner itself was seemingly an effort to "have you ask him for your job and create some sort of quote/unquote patronage relationship." the president seems, from my reading of your memo to be holding your job or your possibility of continuing in your job over your head in a fairly direct way. what was your impression and what did you mean by this motion of a patronage relationship? >> well, my impression -- and, again, it's my impression, i could always be wrong but my common sense told me what was going on is either he had concluded or someone had told him that you didn't -- you've already asked comey to stay and you didn't get anything for it and that the dinner was an effort to build a
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relationship -- in fact, he asked specifically of loyalty -- in the context of asking me to stay. as i said what was odd about that is we already talked twice about it by that point and he said "i very much hope you'll stay." in fact, i just remembered sitting here a third one. you've seen the picture of me walking across the blue room and what the president whispered in my ear was "i really look forward to working with you." so after those encounters -- >> and that was a few days before you were fired? >> that was on the sunday after the inauguration, the next friday i had dinner and the president begins by wanting to talk about my job and so i'm sitting there thinking wait a minute, three times we've already -- you've already asked me to stay or talked about me staying. my common sense -- i could be wrong -- but my common sense told me what's going on here is he's looking to get something in exchange for granting my request to stay in the job. >> again, we all understand. i was a governor, i had people work for me but this constant
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request, again, quoting you, him saying that he -- you explaining your independence he kept coming back to "i need loyalty, i expect loyalty." had you ever had any of those kinds of requests before from anyone else you worked for in the government? >> no. and what made me uneasy was i'm -- at that point the director of the fbi. the reason congress created a ten-year term is so that the director is not feeling as if they're serving at -- with political loyalty owed to any particular person. the statue of justice has a blind fold on because you're not supposed to be speaking out to see whether your patron is pleased with what you're doing. it should be about the facts and the law. that's why i became fbi director. to be in that kind of position so that's why i was so uneasy. >> let me move on. my time is running out. february 14, again, it seems a bit strange, you were in a meeting and your direct superior, the attorney general, was in that meeting as well yet
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the president asked everyone to leave, including the attorney general to leave, before he brought up the matter of general flynn. what was your impression of that type of action, had you ever seen anything like that before? >> no. my impression was something big is about to happen. i need to remember every single toward that is spoken. again, i could be wrong, i'm 56 years old, i've seen a few things. my sense was the attorney general knew he shouldn't be leaving which is why he was leaving and i don't know mr. kushner well but i think he picked up on the same thing so i knew something was about to happen that i needed to pay very close attention to. >> and i found it very interesting that in the memo that you wrote after this february 14 pull-aside, you made clear that you wrote that memo in a way that was unclassified. if you affirmatively made the
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decision to write a memo that was unclassified, was that because you felt at some point the facts of that meeting would have to come clean and come clear and actually be able to be cleared in a way that should be shared with the american people. >> i remember thinking this was a very disturbing development, really important to our work. i need to document it and preserve it in a way and -- this committee get this is but sometimes when things are classified it tangles them up. >> amen. >> it's hard to share it with an investigative team. you have to be careful about how you handle it. for good reason. so my thinking was if i write in the such a way that i don't include anything that would trigger a classification, that will make it easier for us to discuss within the fbi and the government and to hold on to it in a way that makes it accessible to us. >> again, it's our hope, particularly since you're a pretty knowledgeable guy and you wrote this in a way that was unclassified that this committee will get access to that
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unclassified document. i think it will be very important to our investigation. let me just ask this in closing. how many ongoing investigations at any time does the fbi have? >> tens of thousands. >> tens of thousands. has the president ever asked about any other ongoing investigation? >> no. >> did he ever ask about you trying to interfere on any other investigation? >> no. >> i think this speaks volumes. this doesn't even get to the questions around the phone calls about lifting the cloud. i know other members will get to that but appreciate your testimony and appreciate your service to our nation. >> thank you, senator warner. just -- i'm sitting here going through my contacts. i had one conversation with the president that was classified where he asked about our -- an ongoing intelligence investigation. it was brief and entirely professional. >> he didn't ask you to take specific action?
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>> no. no. >> unlike what he had done vis-a-vis mr. flynn and the overall russia investigation? >> correct. >> thank you, sir. >> senator rich? >> thank you very much. mr. comey, thank you for your service. america needs more like you and we appreciate it. yesterday i got and everybody got the seven pages of your direct testimony that's part of the record here and i read it, then i read it again. and all i could think was number one is how much i hated the class of legal writing when i was in law school. and you were the guy that probably got the "a" after reading this. i find it clear, i find it concise and having been a prosecutor for a number of years and handling hundreds of thousands of cases and read police reports, investigative reports, this is as good as it gets and appreciate that. not only the conciseness and the clearness of it but also the fact that you have things that
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were written down contemporaneously when they happened. you put them in quotes so we know what happened and we're not getting some rendition of it that's in your mind. so you're to be complimented. >> i had great parents and great teachers who beat that into me. >> that's obvious. the chairman walked you through a number of things that the american people need to know and want to know. number one, we obviously all know about the active measures that the russians have taken. i think a lot of people were surprised at this. those of us who work in the intelligence community, it didn't come as a surprise but now the american people know this and it's good they know this because this is serious and it's a problem. secondly, i gather from all this that you're willing to say now that while you were director the president of the united states was not under investigation. is that a fair statement? >> that's right. >> so that's a fact that we can rely on? >> yes, sir. >> i remember you talked with us shortly after february 14 when
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the "new york times" wrote an article that suggested that the trump campaign was colluding with the russians. do you remember reading that article when it first came out? >> i do, it was about allegedly extensive electronic surveillance. >> and that upset you to the point where you went out and surveyed the intelligence community to see whether you were missing something in that is that correct? >> that's correct. i want to be careful in an open setting. >> i won't go any further than that. >> okay. >> thank you. in addition to that, after that you sought out both republican and democrat senators to tell them that, hey, i don't know where this is coming from but this is not the case, this is not factual. do you recall that? >> yes. >> again, so the american people can understand this, that report by the "new york times" was not true, is that a fair statement? >> in the main it was not true. again all of you know this and maybe the american people don't.
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the challenge -- and i'm not picking on reporters -- about writing stories on classified information is the people talking about it often don't really foe what's going on and those of us who know what's going on are not talking about it and we don't call the press to say "hey, you got that thing wrong about this sensitive topic." we have to leave it there. i mentioned to the chairman the nonsense around what influenced me to make the july 5 statement. nonsense, but i can't go explaining how it's nonsense. >> thank you. so those three things we now know regarding the active measures regarding the collusion between the trump campaign and the russians. i want to drill down because my time is limited through the most recent dustup regarding allegations that the president of the united states obstructed justice. and, boy, you nailed this down on page five, paragraph three. you put in in quotes, words matter, you wrote down the words
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so we can have the words in front of us now. there are 28 words in quotes. it says, "i hope --" this is the president speaking. "i hope you can see your way to letting this go, to letting flynn go, he is a good guy. i hope you can get this go." now, those are his exact words, is that correct? >> correct. >> and you wrote them here and put them in quotes? >> correct. >> thank you for that. he did not direct you to let it go. >> not in his words, no. >> he did not order you to let it go. >> again, those words are not an order. >> he said "i hope." now, like me, you probably did hundreds of cases, maybe thousands of cases charging people with criminal offenses and of course you have knowledge of the thousands of cases out there where people have been charged. do you know of any case where a person has been charged for obstruction of justice or for that matter other criminal offense where this -- they said
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or thought they hoped for an outcome. >> i don't know well enough to answer and the reason i keep saying his words is i took it as a direction. i mean, this is the president of the united states with me alone saying i hope this. i took it as this is what he wants me to do. i didn't know obey that, but that's the way i took it. >> you may have taken it as a direction, but that's not what he said. >> correct. >> he said i hope. >> those were his exact words, correct. >> you don't know anyone who's ever been charged for hoping something, is that a fair statement? >> i don't as i sit here. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator feinstein. >> thanks where are muvery much chairman. mr. comey, i want you to know i have that great prpt for you. senator cornyn and i sit on the judiciary committee so we have occasion to have you before us. and i know you're a man of strength and integrity and i really regret the situation the
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situation we all find ourselves in. i just want to say that. let me begin with one overarching question. why do you believe you were fired? >> i guess i don't know for sure. i believe the -- i take the president at his word that i was fired because of the russia investigation. something about the way i was conducting it the president felt created pressure on him that he wanted to relieve. again, i didn't know that at the time but i watched his interview, i've read the press accounts of his conversations. i take him at his word there. look, i could be wrong, maybe he's saying something that's not true by i take him at his word based on what i know now. >> talk for a moment about his request that you pledge loyalty and your response to that and what impact you believe that ha had. >> i don't know for sure because i don't know the president well enough to read him well.
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i think it was -- our relationship didn't get off to a great start given the conversation i had to have on january 6. this was not -- this didn't improve the relationship because it was very, very awkward. he was asking for something and i was refusing to give it but, again, i don't know him well enough to know how he reacted to that exactly. >> do you believe the russia investigation played a role? >> in why i was fired? >> yes. >> yes. because i've seen the president say so. >> let's go to the flynn issue. senator risch outlined "i hope you could see your way to letting flynn go, he's a good guy, i hope you can let this go." but you also said in your written remarks that you had also understood the president to be requesting we drop any investigation of flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the
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russian ambassador in december. please go into that with more detai detail. >> the context and the president's words what led know that conclusion. as i said in my statement, i could be wrong, but flynn had been forced to resign the day before and the controversy around general flynn at that point in time was centered on whether he lied to the vice president about the nature of his conversations with the russians, whether he had been candid with others in the course of that so that happens on the day before. on the 14th, the president makes specific reference to that so that's why i understood him to be saying that what he wanted know do was drop any investigation connected to flynn's account of his conversations with the russians. >> now, here's the question. you're big, you're strong. i know the oval office and i know what happens to people when they walk in. there is a certain amount of
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intimidation but why didn't you stop and say "mr. president, this is wrong. i cannot discuss this with you. >> that's a great question. maybe if i were stronger i would have. i was so stunned by the conversation that i just took in the and the only thing i could think to say -- because i was playing in my mind, i can remember every word he said, i was playing in my mind what should my response be and that's why i very carefully chose the words. i've seen the tweet about tapes, lordy, i hope there are tapes. i remember saying i agree he's a good guy as a way of saying i'm not agreeing with what you just asked me to do. again, maybe other people would be stronger but that's how i conducted myself. i hope i'll never have another opportunity. maybe if i did it again i would do it better. >> you described two phone calls that you received from president trump, one on march 30 and one
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on april 11 where he "described the russia investigation as a cloud that was impairing his ability" as president and asked you "to lift the cloud." how did you interpret that and what did you believe he wanted you to do? >> i interpreted that as he was frustrated that the russia investigation was taking up so much time and energy -- i think he meant of the executive branch, but in the public square in general and it was making it difficult for him to focus on other priorities of his. but what he asked me was actually narrower than that. so i think what he meant by the cloud -- and, again, i could be wrong -- but what i think he meant by the cloud was the entire investigation is taking up oxygen and making it hard for me to focus on the things i want to focus on. the ask was to get it out that i, the president, am not
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personally under investigation. after april 11, did he ask you more ever about the russia investigation? did he ask you any questions? >> we never spoke again after april 11. >> you told the president i would see what we could do. what did you mean? >> that was kind of a slightly cowardly way of trying to avoid telling him we're not going to do that, that i would see what we could do as a way of getting off the phone, frankly. and then i turned and handed it to the acting deputy attorney general mr. boente. >> so i wanted to go into that. who did you talk with about that, lifting the cloud, stopping the investigation back at the fbi and what was their response? >> well, the fbi during one of the two conversations -- i'm not
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republicaning exactly, i think the first, my chief of staff was sitting in front of me and heard my end of the conversation because the president's call was a surprise and i discussed the lifting the cloud and the request with the senior leadership team who in -- typically, and i think in all these circumstances, was the deputy director, my chief of staff, the general counsel, the deputy director's chief counsel and i think in a number of circumstances the number three in the fbi and a few of the conversations included the head of the national security branch so that group of us that lead the fbi when it comes to national security. >> okay, you have the president of the united states asking you to stop an investigation that's an important investigation. what was the response of your colleagues? >> i think they were as shocked and troubled by it as i was. some said things that led me to believe that. i don't remember exactly but the reaction was similar to mine.
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they're all experienced people who had never experienced such a thing so they were very concerned. and then the conversation turned to about so what should we do with this information? and that was trouble for us. because we are the leaders of the fbi so it's been reported to us that i heard it and shared it with the leaders of the fbi our conversation was should we share this with senior officials at the justice department? ce department? our absolute primary concern is we can't infect the investigative team. we don't want them to know the president of the united states has asked and when it comes to the president, i took it as a direction, to get rid of this investigation because we are not going to follow that request. we decided we have to keep it away from our troops, but is there anybody else we ought to tell. in my statement we considered whether to tell the attorney
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general and decided it doesn't make sense because we believed he was going to recuse. there were no senate-confirmed leaders. the deputy attorney general was mr. bente who was going to be in that seat and decided the best move would be to hold it, keep it in a box, document it as we have done and we have to figure out what to do with it down the road. is there a way to corroborate it. it's your word against the president's. there is no way to corroborate this. my view of that changed when the prospect of tapes changed. that's what i thought then. >> senator rubio. >> director comey, the meeting in the oval office where he made the request about mike flynn, was that the only time he asked you to hopefully let it go? >> yes. >> in that meeting, as you understood it, he was not asking about the general russia investigation, but about the jeopardy that flynn was in it himself?
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>> that's how i understand it. >> you hoped you did away with it, you perceived it as an order given the setting and the like and the circumstances? >> yes. >> at the time did you say anything about that is not an appropriate request or tell the white house council that is not an appropriate request or someone needs to tell the president he can't do these things? >> i didn't. >> why? >> i don't know. i think the circumstances were such that i was a bit stunned and didn't have the presence of mind. i don't want to make you sound like i'm captain courageous. i don't know if i would have said to the president, sir, that's wrong. in the moment it didn't come to my mind. what came to my mind is be careful what you say. i said i agree flynn is a good guy. >> we talked about the cloud. you perceive the cloud to be the russian investigation in general. >> yes, sir. >> the specific is that you would tell the american people
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that you would told him and the leaders of congress both republican and democrats that he was not under investigation. he was asking you to do what you have done here today? >> yes, sir. >> in that setting, did you say to the president it would be inappropriate to do so and talk to the council so they would talk to him and tell him he couldn't do this? >> first time i said i will see what we can do. second time i explained how it should work that the white house council should contact the deputy attorney general. >> for you to make a public statement that he was not under investigation would not have been illegal, but you felt it made no sense because it could create a duty to correct if circumstances changed. >> yes, sir. we wrestled with it where i confirmed that there was an investigation and there were two primary concerns. one was it creates a duty to correct which i lived before and you want to be very careful
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about doing that and second, it's a slippery slope. if we say the president and the vice president are not under investigation, what's the principaled basis for stopping? the leader should be acting attorney general said you are not going to do that. >> on march 30th phone call, you said he abruptly shifted and brought up something that you call the mccabe thing. specifically the mccabe thing as you understood it was mccabe's wife received campaign money from terry mcauliffe? that was close to the clintons. had the president at any point expressed opposition or potential opposition or i don't like this guy because he got money from someone close to clinton? >> he asked about andy mccabe and said how is he going to be with me as president. i was rough with him on the campaign trail? >> rough on mccabe.
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>> he said he was rough on mccabe and mrs. mccabe. i assures the president andy is a total pro. you have to know the people of the fbi. they are not -- >> the president turns to you and says, remember i never brought up the mccabe thing because you said he was a good guy. did you perceive that as a statement i took care of you and i didn't do something because you told me he was a good guy and i'm asking you potentially for something in return? >> i wasn't sure what to make of it. that's possible, but it was so out of context that i didn't have a clear view of what it was. >> now, on a number of occasions, you bring up -- let's talk about the general russia investigation. page six of your testimony you say, the first thing you say is, he asked what we can do to lift the cloud, the general russia investigation and you responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could and there would be great benefit if we didn't have anything to
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having done the work well and he agreed. he reemphasized the problems it was causing him, but he agreed that it would be great to have an investigation and all the facts came out and we found nothing. he agreed that would be ideal, but this cloud is still messing up my ability to do the rest of my agenda. is that an accurate assessment? >> he went further than that. he said it would be good to find it out if the satellites did something wrong. >> he said if one of my satellites or people surrounding the campaign it would be great to know that as well. >> that's what he said. those the only two instances in which that back and forth happened where the president was saying and i'm paraphrasing, do the russia investigation and i hope it comes out and i have nothing to do with anything russia. it would be great if it all came out and people were doing things that were wrong. >> i recorded it accurately and that was the sentiment he was expressing.
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>> the president asked three things. he asked for your loyalty and you said you would be loyally honest. >> honestly loyal. >> he asked you on one occasion to let the mike flynn thing go because he was a good guy. he said the same thing. he is a good guy who has been treated unfairly. i imagine your fbi agents read that. >> i'm sure they did. >> the president's wishes were known to them by the next day when he had a press conference. going back, the three requests were number one, be loyal. number two, let the mike flynn thing go because he's a good guy and treated unfairly. number three, tell the american people what you and the leaders know. you told me three things that i am not under investigation. >> those are the three things he asked, yes, sir. >> this is full of leaks left and right. we learned more from the newspaper than we do from the
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open hearings, for sure. you ever wonder why of all things in this investigation the only thing that never has been leaked is the fact that the president was not under investigation despite the fact that the republicans and democrats have known that for weeks. >> i don't know. i find matters that are briefed to the gang of eight are pretty tightly held in my experience. >> finally, who are the senior leaders that you share these investigations with? >> as i said in response to senator feinstein's question, the deputy director and chief of staff and council and chief council and more often than not, the number three person at the fbi, the social deputy director and head of the national security branch. >> senator white? >> thank you. mr. comey, welcome. you and i had significant policy differences over the years, particularly protecting americans's access to secure encryption.
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but i believe the timing of your firing stinks. and yesterday you put on the record testimony that demonstrates why the odor of presidential abuse of power is so strong. now to my questions. in talking to senator warner about this dinner that you had with the president january 27th, all in one dinner the president raised your job prospects, he asked for your loyalty, and denied allegations against him. all took place over one supper. now, you told senator warner that the president was looking to "get something." looking back, did that dinner suggest that your job might be contingent on how you handled
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the investigation? >> i don't know that i would go that far. i got the sense that my job would be contingent upon how he felt i conducted myself and whether i demonstrated loyalty. i don't know whether i would go so far oz to connect it. >> you said the president was trying to create some sort of patronage relationship. in a patronage relationship, isn't the underlaying expected to behave in a manner consistent with the wishes of the boss? >> yes. or at least consider how what you are doing will affect the boss as a consideration. >> let me turn to the attorney general. you said that you and the fbi leadership team decided not to discuss the president's actions with attorney general sessions. even though he had not recused himself. what was it about the attorney general's own interactions with
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the russians or his behavior with regard to the investigation that would have led the entire leadership of the fbi to make this decision? >> our judgment as i recall was that he was very close to and inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons. we also were aware of facts that i can't discuss in an open setting that would make his continued engagement in a russia-related investigation problematic. we were convinced and i think we had already heard that the career people were recommending that he recuse himself and he was not going to be in contact with russia-related matters much longer. that turned out to be the case. >> how would you characterize attorney general sessions's adherence to his recusal in particular with regard to his involvement in your firing which the president has acknowledged
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was because of the russian investigation? >> that's a question i can't answer. i think it's a reasonable question. if as the president said i was fired because of the russia investigation, why was the attorney general involved in that chain. i don't have an answer for the question. >> your testimony was that the president's request about flynn could infect the investigation. had the president got what he wanted and what he asked of you? what would have been the effect on the investigation? >> we would have closed any investigation of general flynn in connection with his statements and encounters with russians in that late part of december. we so would have dropped an open criminal investigation. >> so in effect, when you talk
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about infecting the enterprise, you would have dropped something major that would have spoken to the overall ability of the american people to get the facts? >> correct. as good as our people are, our judgment was we don't want them hearing that the president of the united states wants this to go away. it might have an effect on their ability to be fair and impartial and aggressive. >> now, the acting attorney general yates found out that michael flynn could be black mile mailed by the russians and went immediately to warn the white house. flynn is gone, but other individuals with contacts with the russians are still in extremely important positions of power. should the american people have the same sense of urgency now with respect to them? >> i think all i can say, senator, the special council's investigation is very important
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in understanding what efforts there were or are by the russian government to influence our government. it is a critical part of the fbi's mission and you have the right person in bob mueller to lead it. it's a very important piece of work. >> vice president pence was the head of the transition. to your knowledge, was he aware of the concerns about michael flynn prior to or during general flynn's tenure as national security adviser? >> i don't -- you are asking including up to the time when flynn was forced to resign? my understanding is that he was. i'm trying to remember where i get that understanding from. i think from acting attorney general yates. >> so former acting attorney general yates testified the concerns about general flynn were discussed with the intelligence community.
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would that have included anyone at the cia or dan coates's office? >> i would assume yes. >> michael flynn resigned four days after attorney general sessions was sworn in. do you know if the attorney general was aware of the concerns about michael flynn during that period? >> i don't as i sit here. i don't recall that he was. i could be wrong, but i don't remember that he was. >> and finally, let's see if you can give us some sense of who recommended your firing. besides the letters from the attorney general, the deputy attorney general, do you have any information on who may have recommended or been involved in your firing? >> i don't. i don't. >> okay. thank you, mr. chairman.
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>> senator collins? >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. comey, let me begin by thanking you for your voluntary compliance with our request to appear before this committee and assist us in this very important investigation. i want first to ask you about your conversations with the president, the three conversations in which you told him that he was not under investigation. the first was during your january 6th meeting according to your testimony in which it appears that you volunteered that assurance. is that correct? >> that's correct. >> did you limit that statement to counter intelligence investigations or were you talking about any kind of fbi investigation? >> i didn't use the term counter intelligence. i was speaking to him and
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briefing him about some salacious and unverified material. it was in the context of that that he had a strong and defensive reaction about that not being true. my reading of it was it was important to make sure to him we were not personally investigating him. the context then was narrower. it was very important because it was first true and second, i was very much about being in kind of a j. edgar hoover type situation. i didn't want him to think i was briefing him on this to hang it over him in some way. i was briefing him because we were told by the media it was about to launch and he needed to know this was being said. i was keen not to leave him with the impression that the bureau was trying to do something to him. that's the context in which i said we are not personally investigating you. >> and that's why you
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volunteered the information? >> yes, ma'am. >> then on the january 27th dinner, you told the president that he should be careful about asking you to investigate because "you might create a narrative that we are investigating him personally which we weren't." again, were you limiting that statement to counter intelligence investigations or more broadly such as a criminal investigation? >> the context was very similar. i didn't modify the word investigation. again, he was reacting strongly to that unverified material saying i'm tempted to order you to investigate it and i said sir, you want to be careful about that because it might create a narrative we are investigating you personally. >> and then the march 30th phone call with the president in which you reminded him that congressional leaders have been
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briefed and we are not, the fbi was not personally investigating president trump. and again, was that statement to congressional leaders and to the president limited to counter intelligence investigations or was it a broader statement? i'm trying to understand whether there was any kind of investigation of the president under way. >> no. i'm sorry. if i misunderstood i apologize. we briefed the congressional leadership about what americans we had opened counter intelligence investigation cases on. we specifically said the president is not one of those americans. there was no other investigation of the president that we were not mentioning at that time. the context was counter intelligence, but i can't trying to hide a criminal investigation of the president. >> and was the president under investigation at the time of
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your dismissal on may 9th? >> no. >> i would like to now turn to the conversations with the president about michael flynn which had been discussed at great length. first, let me make very clear that the president never should have cleared the room and he never should have asked you as you reported to let it go. let the investigation go. but i remain puzzled by your response. your response was i agree that michael flynn is a good guy. you could have said mr. president, this meeting is inappropriate and this response could compromise the investigation and you should not be making such a request. it's fundamental to the operation of our government that the fbi be insulated from this kind of political pressure.
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you have talked a bit today about that you were stunned by the president making the request. my question to you is later on upon reflection, did you go to anyone at the department of justice and ask them to call the white house council's office and explain that the president had to have a far better understanding and appreciation of his role with the fbi. >> in general i did. i spoke to the attorney general and the deputy attorney general and explained my serious concern in which the president is interacting especially with the fbi. i specifically said that it can't happen that you get kicked out of the room and the president talks to me. in the room, why didn't we raise
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the specifics? it was of investigative interest to us to figure out what just happened with the president's request. i would not want to alert the white house until we figured out what are we going to do with this investigatively. >> your testimony was that you went to attorney general sessions and said don't ever leave me alone with him again. are you saying that you also told him he had made a request that you let it go with regard to part of the investigation of michael flynn? >> i specifically did not. i did not. >> you mentioned that from your very first meeting with the president, you decided to write a memo memorializing the conversation. what was it about that very first meeting that made you write a memo when you had not done that with two previous
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presidents? >> as i said, a combination of things. a gut feeling is an important overlay, but the circumstances that i was alone, the subject matter, and the nature of the person i was interacting with and my read of that person. and really just a gut feel laying on top of that that this is going to be important to protect this organization that i make records of this. >> and finally, did you show copies of your memos to anyone outside of the department of justice? >> yes. >> and to whom did you show copies? >> i asked -- the president tweeted on friday after i got fired i better hope there is not tapes. i woke up in the middle of the night because it didn't don on me that there might be corroboration for our conversation and my judgment was i needed to get that out to the
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public square. i asked a friend of mine to share the content with a reporter. i didn't do it myself for a variety of reasons, but i asked him to because i thought that might prompt the appointment of a special council. >> was that mr. wittis? >> no. >> what was that? >> a good friend of mine who is a professor at columbia law school. >> thank you. >> senator hinrich. >> mr. comey, prior to january 27th of this year, have you ever had a one on one meeting or private dinner with a president of the united states? >> no. dinner, no. i had two one on ones with president obama. one was to talk about law enforcement issues and erase which was an important topic throughout for me and the president. once very briefly to say goodbye. >> were those brief interactions? >> no. the one about law enforcement
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and race and 34r50policing, we for over an hour, just the two of us. >> how unusual is it to have a one on one dinner with the president? did that strike you as odd? >> yes. so much so i assumed there would be others that he couldn't possibly just have dinner with me alone. >> did you have an impression that if you had behaved differently in that dinner and i am quite pleased that you did not, but if you found a way to express some sort of expression of loyalty or given some suggestion that the flynn criminal investigation might be pursued less vigorously, do you think you would have still been fired? >> i don't know. it's impossible to say looking back. i don't know. >> you felt like those two
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things were directly relevant to your kind of relationship that the president was seeking to establish with you? >> sure. yes. >> the president has repeatedly talked about the russian investigation into the u.s. or the russian involvement in the election cycle as a hoax and as fake news. can you talk a little bit about what you saw as fbi director and obviously only the parts that you can share in this setting. that demonstrate how serious this action actually was and why there was an investigation in the first place. >> yes, sir. there should be no fuzz on this whatsoever. the russians interfered in our election in the 2016 cycle. they did it with purpose and sophistication and they did it with overwhelming technical efforts. it was an active measures campaign driven from the top of
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that government. there is no fuzz on that. it is a high confidence judgment of the entire intelligence community and the members of this committee have seen the intelligence. it's not a close call. that happened. that's about as unfake as you can possibly get. it's very, very serious which is why it's so refreshing to see a bipartisan focus on that. this is about america and it's not any particular party. >> that was a hostile act by the russian government against this country? >> yes, sir. >> did the president in any of those interactions that you have shared with us today ask you what you should be doing or what our government should be doing or the intelligence community to protect america against russian interference and our election system? >> i don't recall a conversation like that. >> never? >> no. >> do you find it odd? >> not with president trump. i attended meetings like that with president obama.
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>> do you find it odd that the president seemed unconcerned by russia's actions in our election? >> i can't answer that because i don't know what other conversations he had with other advisers or community leaders. i just don't know sitting here. >> did you have interactions that suggested he was taking that hostile action seriously? >> i don't remember any interactions with the president other than the initial briefing on january 6th. i don't remember -- i could be wrong -- but i don't remember conversations with him at all about that. >> as you are very aware it was only the two of you in the room for that dinner. the president asked you to back off the flynn investigation and the president told -- >> not in that dinner. >> fair enough. he told the reporter he never did that. you testified that the president asked for your loyalty and the
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white house denies that. a lot of this comes down to who should we believe. do you want to say anything as to why we should believe you? >> my mother raised me not to say things like this about myself so i'm not going to. people should look at the whole body of my testimony. i used to say to jerry's, you can't cherry pick it and say i like these things and on these he's a dirty rotten liar. you have to take it all together. i tried to be open and fair and accurate. a significant fact to me is why did he kick everybody out of the oval office. why would you kick the attorney general, the president, the chief of staff out to talk to me if it was about something else? so that to me as an investigator is a significant fact.
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>> as we look at testimony or communication from both of you, we should be looking for consistency. >> looking at any witness you look at consistencconsistency, record, demeanor and record overtime. that sort of thing. >> thank you. so there are reports that the incoming trump administration either during the transition and or after the inauguration attempted to set up a book door communication channel with the russian government using their devices or facilities. what would be the risks, particularly for a transition, someone not actually in the office of president to setting up unauthorized channels with a hostile foreign government especially if they were to evade our own intelligence services? >> i'm not going to comment on whether that happened in an open setting. the risk is obvious. you spare the russians the oft and effort of having to break into our communications channels by using theirs.
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you make it easier for them to capture your conversations and use those to the benefit of russia against the united states. >> the memos that you wrote, you wrote -- did you write all in a way that was designed to prevent them from needing classification? >> no. on a few of the occasions, i sent e-mails to my chief of staff or others on the chief phone conversations that i recall. the first one was a classified briefing. it wasn't in a 65. it was in a conference room in trump tower and i wrote that on a classified device, the one i started typing in the car was a classified laptop. >> any reason in a classified environment that this committee would not be appropriate to see the communications from at least from your perspective as the author? >> no. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator?
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>> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. comey, when you were terminated at the fbi, i said and continue to feel that you have provided years of great service to the country. i also said that i had significant questions over the last year about some of the decisions that you made. if the president had not terminated your service, would you still be in your opinion, the director of the fbi today? >> yes, sir. >> so you took as a direction from the president something that you thought was serious and troublesome, but continued to show up for work the next day? >> yes, sir. >> and six weeks later were still telling the president on march 30th he was not personally the target of any investigation. >> correct. on march 30th and i think again on april 11th as well. i said we were not investigating him personally.
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that was true. >> the concern to me there is all these things are going on and you now in retrospect or you now to this committee where you had serious concerns about what the president had you believed directed you to do and had taken no action. had not even reported up the chain of command assuming you believe there is an up the chain of command, that these things had happened. do you have a sense of that looking back that that was a mistake? >> no. i think no action was the most important thing i could do to make sure there was no interference with the investigation. >> on the flynn issue specifically, i believe you said earlier that you believe that the president was suggesting you drop any investigation of flynn's account of his conversation with the russian ambassador, which was essentially misleading the vice president and others? >> correct.
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i'm not going to go into the details, but whether there was false statements made to investigators as well. >> any suggestion that tgeneral flynn violated the logan act i find incredible. the logan act has been on the books for 200 years and nobody has been prosecuted for violating the logan act. my sense is the discussion, not the problem misleading investigators or the vice president might have been. >> that's fair, yes, sir. >> had you previously on february 14th discussed with the president in the previous meeting anything your investigators learned or impressioned from talking to flynn? >> no, sir. >> so he said he is a good guy and you said he's a good guy and that was no further action taken on that? >> he said more than that, but the action was wrote it up,
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briefed the senior team and tried to figure out what to do with it and made a decision, we will hold this and see what we make of it down the road. yes, sir. >> was your opinion is you had no responsibility to report that to the justice department in some way? >> i think at some point and i don't know what the director is going to do with it, but at some point i was sure we were going to brief it to the team in charge of the case. in the short-term, it doesn't make sense. no fuzz on the fact that i reported it to the attorney general. he shouldn't be kicked out of the room. >> you said the attorney general said i don't want to be in the room alone with him again, but you continued to talk to him on the phone. what is the difference between being in the room alone and talking to him on the phone alone. >> i stretched broader than just the room. i said i report to you. it's important you be between me and the white house. >> after that discussion with the attorney general, did you take phone calls with the
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president? >> yes, sir. >> so why did you say that? why didn't you say you need to talk to the attorney general? >> i did on the april 11th call and i reported the march 30th call and the april 11th call to my superior. >> i don't want to run out of time here. in reading your testimony, january 3rd, january 27th, and march 30th, it appears on all three of those occasions, you unsolicited by the president made the point that he was not a target of an investigation. >> correct. yes, sir. >> i thought march 30th was very interesting. even though you may not want -- that was the 27th where he said why don't you look into that dossier thing more. you said you may not want that because we couldn't say with --
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couldn't answer the question and you didn't seem to answer that question anyhow. senator rubio pointed out the one unleaked question seems to have been that in this whole period of time. you said something earlier and i don't want to fail to follow-up on. you said after you were dismissed, you gave information to a friend so that friend could get that information into the public media. >> correct. >> what information was that? what information did you give to a friend? >> the flynn conversation. that the president asked me to let the flynn -- i forget my exact own words, but the conversation in the oval office. >> you didn't consider your memo or sense of that conversation to be a government document. you consider it to be your own personal document that you could share with the media as you wanted to? >> correct. i understood this to be my
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recollection record of of my conversation as a private citizen. i thought it very important to get it out. >> so were all of your memos that you recorded unclassified or other do you means and memos that might be yours as a private citizen? >> i'm not following the question. >> you said you would use classified -- >> not the classified do you means. unclassified. i don't have them anymore, i gave them to the special council. my view was the content of those unclassified memorialized conversations was my recollection recorded. >> why didn't you give those to somebody yourself rather than give them through a third party? >> i was worried the media was camping at the end of my driveway and i was going out of town with my wife and i worried like feeding sea gulls to the beach that it was i that gave it to the media. >> they created a source close to the former director of the
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fbi as opposed to taking responsibility yourself for saying here are these records and we have other things i would like to get into, but i'm out of time. >> senator kaine. >> i would like to acknowledge this and the one principal thing you learn is the chairs are less comfortable than the chairs here. welcome to the hearing. mr. comey, a broad question. was the russian activity in the 2016 election a one off proposition or is this part of a long-term strategy, will they be back? >> it's a long-term practice of theirs. it's stepped up a notch in a significant way. in 16 they will be back. >> that's very important for the american people to understand. this is very much a forward looking investigation in terms of how do we understand what they did and how would you prevent it?
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is that a big part of our role? >> it's not a republican or democratic thing. it's an american thing. they will come for whatever party they choose to try and work on behalf of. they are not devoted to either in my experience. they are just about their own advantage. they will be back. >> that's my observation. i don't think putin is a republican or a democrat. he's an opportunist. >> i think that's a fair statement. >> with regard to these statements, in his interview with lester holt, the president said i had dinner with him. he wanted to have dipper because he wanted to stay on. is this an accurate statement? >> no, sir. >> did you initiate that dinner? >> no. he called me at my desk at lunchtime and asked me was i free for dinner that night. i r he called and said can you come over for dinner and i said yes, sir. he said will 6 work? he said i was going to invite your family, but we will do that
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next time. is that a good time. i said sir, whatever works for you. he said how about 6:30. i said whatever works for you, sir. i hung up and broke a date with my wife. i was supposed to take her out to dinner. >> that's one of the all time great excuses for breaking a date. >> in retrospect, i wish i had dinner with her that night. >> that's one question i am not going to follow-up. in one case i called him and in one case he called me. is that accurate? >> no. >> did you call the president? >> no. the only reason i'm hesitating is there was at least one conversation where i was asked to call the white house switch board to be connected to him, but i never initiated communication with the president. >> in his press conference on may 18th, he was asked whether he urged you to shut down the investigation into miken flynn
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and the president responded "no, no. next question." is that accurate? >> i don't believe it is. >> with regard to him being personally under investigation, does that mean that the dossier is not being reviewed or investigated or followed up on in any way? >> i obviously can't comment either way and talk in an open setting about the investigation as it was when i was the head of the fbi and it's director muller's responsibility now. i don't know. >> clearly your statements to the president back in these various times when you assures him he was not under investigation at that moment. on the flynn investigation, is it not true that mr. flynn was and is a central figure in the relationship between the trump campaign and the russians? >> i can't answer that in an
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open setting, sir. >> certainly mr. flynn was part of the so-called russian investigation. can you answer that? >> i have to give you the same answer. >> we will be having a closed session shortly. we will follow-up on that. in terms of his comments to you in response to the senator, he said i hope you will hold back on that. when a president of the united states in the oval office says something like i hope or i suggest or would you, do you take that as a directive? >> yes. yes. it ring miss my ears as no one will rid me of this meddle some. >> i was going to quote me. henry the 8th, the next day he was killed. that's exactly the same situation. we are thinking along the same lines. several other questions and these are a little bit more detailed.
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what do you know about the russian bang veb? >> nothing that i can talk to in an open setting. >> that takes care of my next three questions. >> i know it exists. >> you know it exists. what is the relationship of ambassador from russia to the united states to the russian intelligence infrastructure? >> he is a diplomat who is the chief of mission at the russian embassy which employs a robust cohort of intelligence officers. surely he is witting of their very, very aggressive intelligence in the united states. i don't consider him a an intelligence officer. he is a diplomat. >> did you brief the trump administration about the advisability of interacting
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directly with the ambassador? >> all i can say here is there were a variety of defensive briefings given to the incoming administration about the counter intelligence risk. >> back to mr. flynn. would closing out the flynn investigation have impeded the overall russian investigation? >> no -- unlikely except to the extend -- there is a possibility if you have a criminal case that if you squeeze them, they flip them and give you information about something else. i saw the two as touching each other, but separate. >> with regard to your memos, isn't it true that in a court case when you are weighing evidence, contemporaneous memos and statements to third parties are probative in terms of the validity of testimony? >> yes. >> thank you.
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thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator cotton. excuse me. senator langeford. >> director comey, good to see you again. we had multiple opportunities to visit as everyone has and i appreciate you and your service and what you have done for the nation for a long time and continue to do. i told you before in the heat of last year when we had the opportunity to visit i pray for you and your family because you carry a tremendous amount of stress. that is still true today. let me walk through a few things. your notes are important because they give a rapid account of what you wrote down and perceived happened in those meetings. have you had an opportunity to reference those notes in preparing the written statement that you put forth today? >> yes. yes. i think nearly all of my written recordings of the conversations had a chance to review them before filing my statement. >> do you have a copy of any of those notes? >> i don't.
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i turned them over to bob mueller's investigators. >> the individual that you told about your memos, then was sent on to the "new york times." do they have a copy of the memos or were they told orally? >> had a copy at the time. >> do they still have a copy of the memos? >> that's a good question. i think so. i guess i can't say for sure sitting here. i guess i don't know, but i think so. >> could you ask them to hand that copy back to you to hand them over to this committee? >> potentially. >> i would like to move that from potential to see if we can ask those questions. those notes are important to go through the process to get to the factsa ez as we see it. the written do you means are exceptionally important. are there other do you means that you used in your preparation for your written statement that would assist us in helping with this? >> not that i'm aware of, no.
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>> past the february 14th meeting which is a very important meeting as we discussed, the conversations here about michael flynn. when the president asked you about he hopes that you would let this go and the conversation back and forth about being a good guy, after that time, did the president ever bring up anything about michael flynn again to you? you had multiple other conversations you do you meaned with the president. >> i don't know. i don't remember him bringing it up again. >> did the white house staff talk to you about dropping the michael flynn case? >> no. no. >> did the director of national intelligence? >> no. >> did anyone from the attorney general's office or department of justice? >> no. >> did the head of nsa? >> no. >> the key aspect here is if this seems to be showing the president is trying to get you to drop it, it seems like a light touch to drop it and bring it up at that moment the day after he just fired flynn to
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come back and say i hope we can let this go, but it never reappears again. did it slow down your investigation or any investigation that may or may not be occurring with michael flynn? >> no although i don't know there were any manifestations between february 14th and when i was fired. i don't know that the president had a way of knowing if it was effective or not. >> fair enough. if the president wanted to stop an investigation, how would he do that? knowing it's an ongoing criminal investigation or cowner intelligence investigation, would that be a member of going to you and say you make it stop because he doesn't have the authority to stop or how would the president make an ongoing investigation stop? >> again, i'm not a legal scholar so smarter people answer this better, but he is the head of the executive branch and could direct in theory, we have
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important norms against this, but he could direct anyone be investigated or not be investigated. we report to the president. >> would that be to you or the attorney general that would do that? >> i suppose he could do it if he wanted to issue a direct order in any way. through the attorney general or issue it directly to me. >> is there any question that the president is not real fond of this investigation? i can think of multiple 140 word character expressions he has done to express he is not fond of the investigation. i heard you share in this conversation that you are trying to keep the agents that are working on it away from any comment the president might have made. the president has informed around six billion people he is not fond of this investigation. do you think there is a difference in that? >> yes. a big difference in kicking superior officers out of the oval office looking the fbi
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director in the eye and saying i hope you let this go. if the agent as good as they are heard the president of the united states did that, there is a chilling effect on their work. that's why we kept it so tight. >> you mentioned about news stories and accounts and without having to go into the names and specific times and dip into all of that, have there been news accounts about collusion and about this whole event or accusations that as you read the story, you were stunned about how wrong they got the facts? >> yes. many, many stories and reportedly based on classified information about lots of stuff, but especially about russia that are dead wrong. >> i was interested in the comment that you made as well. the president said if there were satellite associates of his that did something wrong, it would be good to find that out. did the president seem to talk to you specifically and say i'm frustrated that the word is not
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getting out that i'm not under investigation, but if there are people in my circle that are, let's finish the investigation. is that how you took it? >> yes, sir. yes. >> you made a comment about the attorney general, previous attorney general asking you about the investigation on the clinton e-mails saying you were asked not to call it an investigation, but to call it a matter. you said that confused you. can you give us details on that? >> it concerned me because we were at the point where we refused to confirm the existence as we typically do of an investigation for months and it was getting to a place where that looked silly. the campaigns we are talking about interacting with the fbi in the course of our work, the clinton campaign at the time was using euphemisms, security review, matters, things like that for what was going on. we were getting to a place where the attorney general and i would have to testify and talk
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publicly. i wanted to know was she going to authorize us to confirm we had an investigation. she said yes, but don't call it that. call it a matter. i said why would i do that? she said just call it a matter. again, you look back and say should i have resisted harder, i said this is not a hill worth dying on. i said okay. the press is going to ignore it and that's what happened when i said we opened a matter, they all reported the fbi has an investigation open. that concerned me because that language tracked the way the campaign was talking about the fbi's work and that's concerning. >> that the campaign was using the same language as the fbi because you were handed the campaign language? >> i don't know whether it was intentional or not, but it gave the impression that the attorney general was looking to align the way we talked about our work with the way the political
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campaign was describing the same activity. that was inaccurate. we had a criminal investigation open. we had an investigation open at the time and that gave me a queasy feeling. >> thank you. >> thank you, mr. comey. i appreciate you being here. west virginia is very interested this this hearing we are having today. i had over 600 requests for questions to ask you from fellow west virginians. most of them have been asked and some were quite detailed. i want to thank you for agreeing to be here and volunteering and also volunteering to stay into the classified hearing. i don't know if you had a chance to watch the hearing yesterday. >> part of it. >> it was quite troubling. my colleagues had pointed questions they wanted questions to. they refused to do so. that even makes us much more appreciative of your cooperation.
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sir, the seriousness of the russian aggressions in our past elections and knowing that it will be ongoing as senator king alluded to, what is your concerns there? what should american public understand? why are we worried about this and why make this russian investigation a big deal? can you tell me your thoughts and the final thing on this same topic. did the president show any concern or interest or curiosity about what the russians were doing? >> thank you, senator. as i said, i don't remember conversations with the president about the russia election interference. >> did he ask you questions concerning this? >> there was a briefing with our findings and there was an initial conversation where he asked what we found and our sources and confidence level and after that i don't remember anything. the reason this is such a big deal is we have this messy wonderful country where we fight with each other all the time,
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but nobody tells us what to think, what to fight about, what to vote for except other americans. that's wonderful and often painful, but we are talking about a foreign government that using technical intrusion and lots of methods tried to shape the way we think, we vote, we act. that is a big deal. people need to recognize it. it's not about republicans or democrats. they are coming after america which i hope we all love equally. they want to undermine our credibility and they think this experiment of ours is a threat. they are going to try to run it down and dirty it up as much as possible. they will be back because we remain as difficult as we can be with each other, we remain that shining city on the hill and they don't like it. >> this is extremely important and dangerous what we are dealing with and it is needed is what you are saying? >> yes, sir. >> do you believe there were taping or recordings in the
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conversations with the president? >> it never occurred to me until the president's tweets. i hope there are. i will consent to the release. >> you both hopes there are tapes and recordings. >> all i can do is hope the president surely knows whether he taped me. if he did, release all the tapes. i'm good with it. >> gotcha. sir, do you believe that robert mueller, the special investigator on russia will be thorough and complete without political interventions? >> yes. bob mueller is one of the finest people and servants this country has ever produced. he is a dogged tough person and you can have high confidence when it's done, he turned over all the rocks. >> you have been asked a wide variety of questions today and we will hear more in our classified hearing. something i have to ask folks when they come here, what
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details of this saga should we focus on and what would you remember we do differently? or adjust our perspective on this? >> i don't know. one of the reasons i am pleased to be here is this committee has shown the american people although we have two parties and disagree about prcht things, we can work together when it involves the core interest of the country. i hope you will keep doing what you are doing. it's a model especially for kids that we are a functioning adult democracy. >> you also mentioned you had six meetings three times in person and six on the phone, nine conversations with the president. did he ever allude that you are not performing adequately? ever indicate that? >> no, in fact the contrary. i was about to get on a helicopter day and the head of the dea was waiting if are me and he called to check in and me
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i was doing an awesome job and wanted to say how i was doing. i said i was doing fine and finished the call and got on the helicopter. >> do you believe you would have been fired if hillary clinton was president? >> that's a great question. i don't know. >> do you have thoughts about it? >> i might have been. i don't know. i said before, that was an extraordinarily difficult and painful time. i think i did what i had to do and i knew it was going to be bad for me personally and the consequences might have been i would have been terminated if hillary clinton was elected. i don't know. >> in the oval office, you mentioned you asked attorney general sessions to make sure you were never left alone with the president. did you ever consider why attorney general sessions was not asked to stay in the room? >> sure.
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i did. and have. in that moment -- >> did you talk to him about it? >> no. >> you never had discussions with jeff sessions about this? >> not at all. >> on any of your meetings? >> no. >> did he inquire or show what that meeting was about? >> no. you're right. i did say to him and i forgot this. when i talked to him and said you have to be between me and the president and that's incredibly important and forget my exact words. i passed along the message about the rtance of aggressively pursuing the leaks of classified information. that's a goal i share and i passed that along to the attorney general i think the next morning in a meeting. >> do you believe this arises to obstruction of justice? >> i don't know. that's bob mueller's job to sort that out. >> thank you, sir.
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>> mr. chairman? the tapes. will you encourage the department of justice or your friend at columbia or mr. puhler to release your memo? >> sure. >> you said you did not record your conversations with president barack obama or president bush in memos. did you do so with attorney general sessions or any other senior member of the trump department of justice? >> no. >> did you record conversations and memos with attorney general lynch or any other senior member of the obama department of justice? >> no, not that i recall. >> in your statement for the record you cite nine private conversations with the president, three meetings and two phone calls, there are four phone calls not discussed in your statement for the record. what happened to those phone calls? >> the president called me i believe shortly before he was
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inaugurated as a follow-up to our conversation -- private conversation on january 6, he just wanted to reiterate his rejection of the allegation and talk about he'd thought about it more and why he thought it wasn't true, the unverified and salacious parts and during that call he asked me again, i hope you're going to stay, you're doing a great job. and i told him i intended to. there was another phone call that i mentioned i think it was -- victim the date wrong -- march 1 where he called just to check in with me as i was about to get on the helicopter. there was a secure call we had about an operational matter not related to any of this about something the fbi was working on, he wanted to make sure that i understood how important he thought it was, totally appropriate call. and then the fourth call -- i'm probably forgetting. it may have been -- i may have meant the call when he called to invite me to dinner.
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i'll think about it as i'm answering other questions but i think i got that right. >> let's turn our attention to underlying activity at issue here, russia's hacking the e-mails and releasing them and allegations of collusion. do you believe donald trump colluded with russia? >> it's a question i don't think i should answer in an open setting. as i said, when i left we did not have an investigation focused on president trump. but that's a question that will be answered by the investigation, i think. >> let me turn a couple statements by one of my colleagues, senator feinstein. she was the ranking member on this committee until january, which means she had access to information that only she and chairman burr did. she has access to fbi information that most of us don't. on may 3 on cnn's wolf blitzer show she was asked "do you believe, do you have evidence there was in fact collusion between trump associates and russia during the campaign?" she answered "not at this time."
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on may 18, same show, mr. blitzer said "last time we spoke i asked if you had seen collusion of the trump campaigns and the russians and you said to me not at this time. has anything changed since we last spoke?" senator feinstein said "well, no, no, it hasn't." do you have any reason to doubt those statements? >> i don't doubt senator feinstein was saying what she understood. i just want to go down that path first of all because i'm not in the government anymore in answering in the negative i just worry leads me deeper and deeper into talking about the investigation in an open setting. i'm always trying to be fair, i am not trying to suggest something nefarious but i want to get into the business of saying not as to this person, not as to that person. >> on february 14 the "new york times" published a story, the headline of which was "trump campaign aides had repeated contacts with russian intelligence." you were asked earlier if that was an inaccurate story and you said in the main. would it be fair to characterize that story as almost entirely wrong?
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>> yes. >> did you have, at the time that story was published, any indication of contact between trump people and russian intelligence officers, other government officials or close associates of the russian government? >> that's one i can't answer sitting here. >> we can discuss that in the classified setting, then. i want to turn attention now to mr. flynn and the allegations of his underlying conduct to be specific, his alleged interactions with the russian ambassador on the telephone and what he said to senior trump administration officials and department of justice officials. i understand there are other issues with mr. flynn related to his receipt of foreign monies or disclosure of potential advocacy activity on behalf of foreign governments. those are serious and credible allegations that will be pursued but i want to speak specifically about interactions with the russian ambassador. there was a story on january 23 in the "washington post" that says, entitled "fbi reviewed flynn's calls with russian
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ambassador but found nothing illicit." is this story accurate? >> i don't want to comment on that senator because i'm pretty sure the bureau has not confirmed any interception of communications and so i don't want to talk about that in an open setting. >> would it be improper for an incoming national security adviser to have a conversation with a foreign ambassador? >> in my experience, no. >> but you can't confirm or deny that the conversation happened around we would know to know the content of that conversation to know if it was, in fact, improper. >> i don't think i can talk about that in open setting, again, i've been out of government now a month so i don't want to talk about things when it's now somebody else's responsibility but maybe in the classified setting we can talk more about that. >> you stated earlier that there wasn't an open investigation of mr. flynn in the fbi. did you or any fbi agent ever
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since mr. flynn attempted to deceive you or made false statements to an fbi agent? >> i don't want to go too far. that was the subject of the criminal inquiry. >> did you ever come close to closing the investigation on mr. flynn? >> i don't think i can talk about that in open setting, either. >> we'll discuss these more in a closed setting then. mr. comey, in 2004 you were a part of a well-publicized event about an intelligence program that had been recertified several times and you were acting attorney general when attorney general john ashcroft was incapacitated due to illness. there was a traumatic showdown at the hospital here. the next day you said that you wrote a letter of resignation and signed it before you went to meet with fob president bush to explain why you refused to certify it.
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is that accurate? >> yes, i believe so. >> at any time you were director when you were with the traiump administration, did you ever sign a letter of resignation and leave it on your desk? >> no, sir. >> so despite all of the things you've testified here to today, you didn't feel this rose to the level of an honest but serious difference of legal opinion between accomplished and skilled lawyers in that 2004 episode? >> i wouldn't characterize the circumstances of 2014 that way, but the answer, no, i didn't find -- encounter any circumstance that led me to intend to resign, consider to resign, no, sir. >> thank you. >> senator harris? >> director comey, i want to thank you, you are now a private citizen and you are enduring a senate intelligence committee hearing and each of us get seven minutes instead of five as yesterday to ask you questions so thank you. >> i'm between opportunities now so -- [ laughter ]
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>> i'm sure you'll have opportunities. you and i are both former prosecutors. i'm not going to require you to answer, i'm just going to make a statement that in my experience of prosecuting cases, when a robber held a gun to somebody's head and said "i hope you will give me your wallet" the word "hope" was not the most operative word at that moment, but you don't have to respond to that point. i have a series of questions to ask you and they're going to start with are you aware of any meetings between the trump administration officials and russian officials during the campaign that have not been acknowledged by those officials in the white house? >> that's not a -- even if i remember clearly, that's not a question i can answer in an open setting. >> are you aware of any efforts by trump campaign officials or associates of the campaign to hide their communications with russian officials through encrypted communications or other means? >> i have to give you the same answer, senator. >> sure.
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in the course of the fbi's investigation, did you ever come across anything that suggested that communications, records, documents, or other evidence had been destroyed? >> i think i have to give you the same answer because it would touch on investigative matters. >> are you aware of any efforts or potential efforts to conceal communications between campaign officials and russian officials? >> i think i have to give you the same answer, senator. >> thank you. as a former attorney general i have a series of questions about your connection with the attorney general during the course of your tenure as director. what is your understanding of the parameters of general session's recusal from the russia investigation? >> i think it's described in a written release or statement from doj which i don't remember sitting hereby but the gist was he would be recused from all matters relating to russia and the campaign or activities of russia and the '16 election, i think, something like that. >> so is your knowledge of the
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extent of his recusal based on the public statements he's made? >> correct. >> so is there any kind of memorandum issued from the attorney general or the department of justice to the fbi outlining the parameters of his recusal? >> not that i'm aware of. >> do you know if he reviewed any fbi or doj documents pertaining to the investigation before he was recused? >> i don't know. >> and after he was recused? i'm assuming it's the same answer. >> same answer. >> aside from any notice or memorandum that was not sent or was, what mechanism or processes were in place to ensure that the attorney general would not have any connection with the investigation to your knowledge? >> i don't know for sure. i know that he had consulted with career ethics official that know how to run a recusal at doj but i don't know what mechanism they set up. >> and the attorney general recused himself from the investigation but do you believe it was appropriate for him to be involved in the firing of the chief investigator of that case?
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of that russia interference? >> that's something i can't answer sitting here. it's a reasonable question but it would depend on things i don't know, like what was he know, what was he told, did he realize the president was doing it because of the russia investigation? i don't know the answer. >> you've mentioned in your written testimony in here that the president essentially asked you for a loyalty pledge. are you aware of him making the same request of any other members of the cabinet? >> i am not. >> do you know one way or another? >> i don't know one way or another. i've never heard anything about it. >> you mentioned that on -- you had the conversation where he hoped that you would let the flynn matter go on february 14 or thereabouts. it's my understanding that mr. sessions was recused from any involvement in the investigation about a full two weeks later. to your knowledge was the attorney general -- did he have access to information about the investigation in those interim two weeks?
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i i don't -- in theory, sure, he's the attorney general. i don't know whether he had any contact with any materials related to that. >> to your knowledge, was there any directive he should not have any contact with any information about the russia investigation between the february 14 date and the day he was ultimately recused or recused himself on march 2? >> not to my knowledge. i don't know one way or another. >> did you speak to the attorney general about the russia investigation before his recusal? >> i don't think so, no. >> do you know if anyone in the department, in the fbi, forwarded any documents or information or memos of any sort to the attention of the attorney
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que me haga creer que haya >> in your written testimony you indicate that you -- after you were left alone with the president you mentioned that it was inappropriate and should never happen again to the attorney general. and apparently he did not reply and you write that he did not reply. what did he do? if anything? did he just look at you? was there a pause for a moment? what happened? >> i don't remember real clearly. i have a recollection of him just kind of looking at me and there's a danger here i'm projecting on to him so this may be a faulty memory but his body language gave me the sense of, like, what am i going to do? >> did he shrug. >> i don't remember clearly. i think the reason i have that impression is i have some recollection of almost imperceptible like "what am i going do" but i don't have a clear recollection of that. he didn't say anything.
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>> and on that same february 14 meeting you said you understood the president to be requesting you develop the investigation. after that meeting you received two calls from the president, march 30 and april 11 where the president talked about a cloud over his presidency. has anything you've learned in the months since your february 14 meeting changed your understanding of the president's request? i guess it would be what he said in public documents or public interviews? >> correct. >> and is there anything about this investigation that you believe is in any way or biased or is not being informed by a process of seeking the truth? >> no. the appointment of a special counsel should offer great -- especially given who that person is -- great comfort to americans, no matter what your political affiliation is that this will be done independently, competently and honestly. >> do you believe he should have full authority, mr. mueller, to pursue that investigation?
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>> yes. and i -- and knowing him well over the years, if there's something he thinks he needs he will speak up about it. >> do you believe he should have full independence? >> oh, yeah, and he wouldn't be part of it if he wasn't going to get full independence. >> thank you. >> senator cornyn? >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. comey, i'll repeat what i've said at previous hearings, that i believe you're a good and decent man who's been dealt a very difficult hand starting back with the clinton e-mail investigation and appreciate your willingness to appear here today voluntarily and answer our questions and cooperate with our investigation. as a general matter, if an fbi agent has reason to believe that a crime has been committed, do they have a duty to report it? >> that's a good question. i don't know that there's a legal duty to report it. they certainly have a cultural, ethical duty to report it.
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>> you're unsure whether they would have a legal duty? >> it's a good question. i've not thought about it before. i don't know where the legal -- there's a statute that prohibits misprician of a felony and taking steps to conceal it. i would expect any fbi agent who has any information about a crime to report it. >> me, too. >> but where you rest that obligation, i don't know. it exists. >> let me ask you as a general propositi proposition, if you're trying to make an investigation go away, is firing an fbi director a good way to make that snhappen? >> by that i mean -- >> it doesn't make a lot of sense to me but i'm obviously hopelessly biased given that i was the one fired. >> i understand it's personal. >> given the nature of the fbi -- i meant what i said. there's no indispensable people in the world, including at the fbi. there's lots of bad things about me not being at the fbi, most
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are for me, but the work will go on as before. >> so nothing that's happened that you've testified here today has impeded the investigation of the fbi or director mueller's commitment to get to the bottom of this from the standpoint of the fbi and the department of justice. would you agree with that? >> correct. especially appointment of former director mueller is a critical part of that equation. >> let me take you back to the clinton e-mail investigation. i think you've been cast as a hero or a villain depending on the -- whose political ox is being gored at many different times during the course of the clinton e-mail investigation and even now perhaps. but you clearly were troubled by the conduct of the sitting attorney general loretta lynch when it came to the clinton e-mail investigation. you mentioned the characterization that you'd been asked to accept that this was a matter and not a criminal investigation which you said it was.
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there was a matter of president clinton's meeting on the tarmac with the sitting attorney general at a time when his wife was subject to a criminal investigation and you suggested that perhaps there are other matters you may be able to share with us later nona classified setting. but it seems to me that you clearly believe that loretta lynch, the attorney general, had an appearance of a conflict of interest on the clinton e-mail investigation. is that correct? >> i think that's fair. i didn't believe she could credibly decline that investigation. at least not without grievous damage to the department of justice and to the fbi. >> and under department of justice and fbi norms, wouldn't have been appropriate for the attorney general or if she had recused herself, which she did not do, for the deputy attorney general to appoint a special counsel? that's essentially what's happened now with director mueller. that would have been an appropriate step in the clinton
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e-mail investigation in your opinion? >> certainly a possible step, yes, sir. >> and were you aware ms. lynch had been requested numerous times to appoint a special counsel and refused? >> yes, sir. from i think congress had -- members of congress repeatedly asked, yes, sir. >> yours truly did on multiple occasions. and that heightened your concerns about the appearance of a conflict of interest with the department of justice which caused you to make what you have described as an incredibly painful decision to basically take the matter up yourself and lead to that july press conference. >> yes, sir. after the president clinton -- former president clinton met on the plane with the attorney general i considered whether i should call for appointment of a special counsel and decided that that would be an unfair thing to do because i knew there was no case there. we had investigated it very, very thoroughly. i know this is a subject of passionate disagreement, but i
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knew there was no case there and calling for appointment of a special counsel would be brutally unfair because it would send the message, ah-ha, there's something here. that was my judgment. again, lots of people are have different views. >> if a special counsel had been had been appointed they could have made that determination that there was nothing there and declined to pursue it, right? >> sure, but it would have been many months later or a year later. >> >> let me just ask you to -- given the experience of the clinton e-mail investigation and what happened there, do you think it's unreasonable for anyone, any president who had been assured on multiple occasions that he's not the subject of an fbi investigation, do you think it's unreasonable for them to want the fbi director to publicly announce that so that this cloud other
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his administration would be removed? >> i think that's a reasonable point of view. the concern would be obviously that boomerang comes back it's going to be a big deal because there will be a duty to correct. >> well, we saw that in the clinton e-mail investigation. >> yes, i recall that. [ laughter ] >> i know you do. so lett me ask you in the minute we have left. there was a conversation about loyalty and i think we appreciate the fact that the fbi director is a unique public aofficial that he's a political appointee in one sense but he has a duty of independence to pursue the law pursuant to the laws of the united states and so when the president asked you about loyalty you got in this back and forth about when he will i'll pledge you my honesty and it looks like from when what i read you agreed upon honest
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loyalty or something like that. is that the characterization? >> yes. >> thank you very much. >> thank you, sir. >> senator reid? >> thank you, mr. chairman, thank you, director comey. there have been press reports that the president in addition to ask you to drop the flib investigati investigation has asked other senior intelligence officials to take steps which would tend to undermine the investigation into russia, there's been reports that he's asked dni coats and admiral rogers to make public statements exonerating him or taking the pressure off him and also reports about admiral rogers and director pompeo to intervene and reach out to the fbi and ask them to. are you aware of any of these -- do you have any information with respect to any of these allegations? >> i don't. i'm aware of the public
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reporting but i had no contact no conversation with any of those leaders about that subject. >> thank you. you have testified that you interpret the discussion with the president about flynn as a direction to stop the investigation, is that correct? >> yes. >> you've testified that the president asked you to lift the cloud by essentially making public statements exonerating him and perhaps others, you refused, correct? >> i didn't do it. i didn't refuse the president. i told him we would see what we could do and the second time he called i told him in substance that's something your lawyer will have to take up with the justice department. >> and part of the underlying logic was that we've discussed many times throughout this morning is the duty to correct that is one of a theoretical issue but also a very practical
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issue. was your feeling that the direction of the investigation could, in fact, include the president? >> well, in theory. i mean, as i explained the concern of one of my senior leader colleagues was if you're looking at potential coordination between the campaign and russia, the person at the head of the campaign is the candidate so logically, this person argued, the candidates' knowledgensing would logically become a part of your inquiry if it proceeds. so i understood that argument. my view was that what i said to the president was accurate and fair and fair to him. i resisted the idea of publicly saying it. although if the justice department wanted to i would have done it. because of the duty to correct and the slippery slope problem. >> again, also, you've testified the president asked you repeatedly to be loyal to him and you responded you would be
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honestly loyal which is i think your way of saying i'll be honest and i'll be the head of the fbi and independent, is that fair? >> correct. i tried honest first. you see in the my testimony. i tried to explain it to him why it's in his interest and everybody president's interest for the fbi to be a part in a way because its credibility is important to a president and to the country. i tried to hold the line. it got very awkward and i said you'll always have honest he from me and he said "honest loyalty?" and i acceded to that in order to end this awkwardness. >> and the culmination of the events is you're fired without any explanation or anything else. >> well, there was an explanation, i just don't buy it. >> well, yes. so you're fired so do you believe you were fired because you refused to take the president's direction? is that the ultimate reason? >> i don't know for sure i know
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i was fired. i take the president's words, i know i was fired because of something about the way i was conducting the russia investigation was in some way putting pressure on him, in some way irritating him and he decided to fire me because of that, i can't go farther than th that. >> the russia investigation as you have pointed out and as my colleagues have reflected is one of the most serious hostile acts in our country in this history, undermining the core of our democracy in our elections is not a discrete event. it will likely occur. it's probably be being prepared now for '18 and '20 and beyond and yet the president of the united states fires you because in your own words some relation to this investigation then he shows up in the oval office with the russian foreign minister as classifying you as crazy and a real nutjob which i think you've effectively disproved this morning.
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he said i faced great pressure because of russia, that's taken off. your conclusion would be that the president, i would think, is down playing the seriousness of this threat. in fact took specific steps to stop a thorough investigation of the russian influence also and from what you've said doesn't seem particularly interested in these hostile threats from the russians, is that fair? >> i don't know that i can agree to that level of detail. there's no doubt that it's a fair judgment, it's my judgment that i was fired because of the russia investigation. i was fired in some way in some way to change -- the endeavor was to change the way the russia investigation was being conducted. that is a having big deal not just because it involves me, the nature of the fbi and its work
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requires it not be the subject of political consideration and on top of that you have the russia investigation its is vital because of the threat and i know i should have said this earlier but it's obvious. if any americans were part of helping the russians do that to us that is a very big deal and i'm confident if that is the case director mueller will find that evidence. >> finally the president tweeted that james comey better hope there are no types of our conversations where he starts leaking to the press. was that a rather unsubtle attempt to intimidate you from testifying, intimidate anyone else who seriously crosses his path of not doing it? >> i'm not going to sit here and try to interpret the president's tweets. to me its major impact, as it occurred to me in the middle of the night, holy cow, it might be tapes and if it's tapes it's not
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just my word against his on the directive to get rid of the flynn investigation. >> thank you very much. >> senator joim. >> in the case of hillary clinton you made the statement that there wasn't sufficient evidence to bring a suit against her although it had been very careless in the behavior but you did reach a conclusion in that case that it was not necessary to further case to further pursue her yet at the same time in the case of mr. comey you said that there was not enough information to make a conclusion. tell me the difference between your conclusion as far as former
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secretary clinton is concerned and mr. trump. >> the clinton investigation was a completed investigation that the fbi had been deeply involved in and so i had an opportunity to understand all the facts and apply those facts against the law as i understood them. this investigation was under way, still going when i was fired so it's not where near in the same place, at least it wasn't when i was -- >> but it's still ongoing. >> correct. so far as i know. it was when i left. >> that investigation was going on. this investigation is going on, you reach separate conclusions. >> no, that one was done. >> that investigation of any vovmgt of secretary clinton or any of her associates is completed? >> as of july 5 the fbi completed its investigative work and that's what i was announcing, what we had done and
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what we had found. >> well, at least in the minds of this member there's a whole lot of questions remaining about what went on, particularly considering the fact that as you mention it's a "big deal" as to what went on during the campaign so i'm glad you concluded that part of the investigation but i think that the american people have a whole lot of questions out there, particularly since you just emphasized the role that russia played and obviously she was a candidate for president at the time so she was clearly involved in this whole situation where fake news as you just described it, big deal took place. you're going to have to help me out here. in other words, we're complete the investigation of anything that former secretary clinton had to do with the campaign is over and we don't have to worry
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about it anymore? >> with respect to -- i'm not -- i'm a little confused, senator. with respect to secretary clinton, we investigated criminal investigation in connection with her use of a personal e-mail server. >> i understand. >> and that's the investigation i announced the conclusion of on july 5. >> but at the same time you made the announcement there would be no charges brought against then secretary clinton for any activities involved in the russia involvement in our engagement in our election. i don't quite understand how you could be done with that but not complete -- done with the whole investigation of their attempt to affect the outcome of our election. >> no, i'm sorry. we're not -- at least when i left, when i was fired on may 9, it was still an open active investigation to understand the russian efforts and whether any americans work with them. >> but you reached the conclusion that there was no reason to bring charges against secretary clinton so you reached
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a conclusion in the case of mr. comey you -- the president comey -- >> no, sir. >> the case of president trump you have an ongoing investigation. so you've got one candidate who you're done with and another candidate that you have a long way to go. is that correct? >> i don't know how far the fbi has to go but, yes. that the clinton e-mail investigation was completed, the investigation of russia's efforts in connection with the election and whether there was coordination and if so with whom between russia and the campaign was ongoing when i left. >> you just made it clear in what you said this is a "big dea deal," i think it's hard to reconcile in one case you reach a complete conclusion and the other side you have not and you' you've in fact obviously there's a lot more there as we know, as
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you called it, a "big deal." she's one of the candidates but in her case you say there will be no charges and in the case of president trump the investigation continues, what has been brought out in this hearing is more and more emphasis on the russian engagement and involvement in this campaign. how serious do you think this was? >> very serious. but i want to be clear. we have not announced and there was no predication to an announce of whether the russians may have coordinated with secretary clinton's campaign. secretary clinton's campaign -- >> but they may not have been involved with her campaign, they were involved with the entire presidential campaign. >> of course, yes, sir. and that is an investigation that began last summer and so far as i'm aware continues. >> so both president trump former candidate clinton are
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both involved in the investigation yet one of them you said there's going to be no charges and the other one the investigation continues. will, i think there's a double standard there, to tell you the truth. then when the president said to you, you talked about the april 11 phone call and you said "because i've been very loyal to you, very loyal, we had that thing, you know." did that arouse your curiosity as to what "that thing" was? >> yes. >> why didn't you ask him? >> it didn't seem to me to be important for the conversation we were having to understand it i took it to be some -- an effort to communicate to me that -- that there is a relationship between us where i've been good to you, you should be good to me. >> but i think it would intensely arouse my curiosity if the president said "we had that thing, you know" i'd like to know what that thing is if i'm
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the director of the fbi. >> i get that, senator. this is speculation but what i concluded at the time is in his memory he was searching back to our encounter at the dinner and was preparing himself to say i offered loyalty to you, you promised loyalty to me and his memory showed him that did not happen and i think he pulled up short. that's just a guess. but a lot of conversations with humans over the years -- >> i think i would have had some curiosity if it had been about me, to be honest with you. >> are you aware of anything that would believe you to believe that the president -- the members of the administration or members of the campaign could potentially be used to coerce or blackmail the administration? >> that's a subject for investigations, not something i can comment on sitting here. >> but you reached that conclusion as far as secretary clinton was concerned but you're not reaching a conclusion as far
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as this administration is concered? are you aware of anything that would lead you to believe that investigation exists that could coerce members of the administration or blackmail the administration? >> that's not a question i can answer senator. >> the senator's time has expire expired. >> all time has expired for the hearing. can i say for members, we'll reconvene promptly at 1:00 p.m. in the hearing room. we have a vote scheduled for 1:45. i would suggest all members promptly be there at 1:00. we have about three minutes. i'd like to have order. photographers -- frfrs return to where you were, please. this hearing is not adjourned yet.
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either that or we'll remove you. to members, we have about three minutes of updates that we would love to cover as soon as we get into the closed session before we have an opportunity to spend time with director comey. based on our agreement it would be my intention to adjourn that closed hearing between 2:00 and 2:10 so members can vote and i would urge you to eat at that time. jim. several of us on this committee have had the opportunity to work with you since you walked in the door. i want to say personally on behalf of all the committee members, we're grateful for your service to your country not just in the capacity as fbi director but as prosecutor and more importantly being somebody that love this is country enough to tell it like it is. i want to say to your work force we're grateful to them with the level of cooperation they have shown us with the trust we've built between both
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organizations, the congress and the bureau. we couldn't do our job if it wasn't for their willingness to share candidly the work we need to see. this is the ninth public hearing this committee has had this year. that is twice the historical year-long average of this committee. i think the vice chairman and my's biggest challenge when this investigation has concluded is to return our hearings to the secrecy of a closed hearing to encourage our members not to freely talk about intelligence matters publicly and to respect the fact that we have a huge job. and that's to represent the entire body of the united states senate and the american people to make sure that we work with the intelligence community to
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provide you the tools to keep america safe and that you do it within the legal limit or those limits set by the executive branch. we could not do it if it wasn't for the trust t partnership you have been able to lead and others before you. so as we depart from this, this is a pivotal hearing in our investigation. we're grating for the professionalism you've shown and your willingness. >> i want to echo the thanks for your appearance and there clearly still remain a number of questions and the one thing i want to commit too you and more importantly jim and i want to commit to all those who are still watching and following, there's still a lot of unanswered questions and we'll get the facts out, the american people deserve to know. there's the questions around implications of trump officials and the russians but there's also the macro issue of what the
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russians did and continue to do. it's very important all americans realize that threat is real, it is continuous, not just towards our nation it is towards all western democracies and we have to come to a solution. >> director comey, thank you once again. on behalf of this committee, this hearing is adjourned. after two and a half hours, james comey now leaving the hearing room in washington. for the last two and a half hours this city has stood still as had a lot of america. the most-anticipated hearing we have seen in years. james comey the fired fbi director delivering many ways on a hearing that many people thought would be dramatic and riveting and savannah guthrie with me, it was just that. >> it was let's not forget the large point. you have a former fbi director who called the sitting president of the united states a liar on more than one occasion, he said


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